A few seconds after I back tentatively down my steep, icy driveway (I moved here to get away from ice) and avoid the hazards of elementary children and their distracted parents at drop off I let out a big sigh. Once again no fatalities. A good omen.
I slowed to whatever is less than a crawl but still technically moving as the elderly couple took their morning restorative. As I did this a woman blew though a stop sign on a side street and sped past them. By “blew through” and “sped past” I mean drove the speed limit. But she really did run the stop sign.
“What the fuck, bitch?” As quickly as it came to mind it was replaced by an image of what might be inside the car. Maybe she was a middle aged mom who had driven for 3 days straight to see her children. She had just sat by the bedside of her stepfather and held his hand as he took his last breathe. This was the man who raised her after her mother disappeared, and he would have died alone if she hadn’t left her family to care for him. It had been a long, exhausting month full of acrid hospital smells and the sound of gasping retractions as this man had fought for breathe. In these weeks at his bedside he had talked about her mother for the first time in 20 years. It was a different kind of trial as the shadow woman came to life and the carefully created barrier between her head and heart cracked open as she felt her loss for the first time in decades. When it was all done she got in the car with red bull and bananas and hurried home to hug her own girls. Ready to fill the hole inside with love she would send to her girls. And maybe just a bit to her mother, wherever she might be. Just three blocks from home she encountered a dirty white SUV which was rolling along the road at a pace slower than her stepfather’s death…so she skipped that one stop sigh and got herself home to her girls in time to hug them before they left for school and she had to wait another 8 impossible hours.
Entering the coffee shop there was a guy three steps back from the counter. He was oblivious to how he held up the line of undercaffeinated people at his posterior. It was as if he was learning about hot beverages for the first time as he asked the barista question after question. The line of us became united as we shifted from foot to foot, unzipping winter coats which made us to warm in the coffee shop. Grumbling at each second he was breaking us away from his morning routine.
To keep myself from joining the mob behind me I imagined him a researcher at the hospital lab across the street. He had been working on a non-invasive treatment for spinal injuries since he left medical school in 1999. Last night one of his subjects had risen to his four furry feet for the first time. This man, whose friends and family consisted of the lab tech, the night watchperson, and 24, no…23 mice had stayed up all night watching the creature in wonder. 15 years later this very treatment will be one to get my friend’s son out of his wheelchair after a ski accident. He chose his drink and looked back, seeing us for the first time, blinking in the light of day.
Leaving the coffee shop I watched a woman walk up. She was juggling her phone and a 5,000 bag. She was dressed for a workout and her golden hair gleamed with 1,000 highlights. I kept my eyes forward, anticipating the nothing that she would direct my way. Instead her grey eyes sought out mine. “Hi” she said brightly “How is your morning going?”
“It’s going well thanks.” I told her as we were almost past.